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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

LITERARY PATRIOTIC DUKE                     7

In years of good crops, when the officials put them in jail if they
dared return to their villages, for failure to pay the loans and interest
which the socialist regime had forced upon the peasants. And his
voice cried to high heaven; he could not help himself. There were
dishonest reporters who thought it expedient to maintain a strict silence
on the bad features of the socialist regime, of wtiich they could not
be unaware, and to glamorise its virtues. The success of telling big
lies, if the lies are big enough and repeated often enough, is not a
modern invention. The eunuchs had to make their living. In such a
way did irresponsible men play with a nation's destiny, as if they them-
selves could escape its consequences. Su Tungpo could at least keep
his own soul and pay the price for it. The honest intentions of the
Emperor were no excuse for his gullibility, for he was wrong, and Su
Tungpo right, on the main issue. An iron rule was clapped over the
people in the holy name of social reform. In the mad struggle for
power, party fanaticism overruled patriotic interests, and the moral and
economic fibre of the nation was consumed and weakened as Su
Tungpo foretold, making the country an easy prey to a conqueror from
the direction of Siberia. When petty men were ready to serve as puppets
of a powerful neighbour from the north in the name of a "regional
independent China" which owed allegiance to a foreign power, it was
but right that the imperial dynasty should be extinguished and China
should retreat south of the Yangtse River. When the Sung house had
burned down, historians, walking among the charred ruins, began to
survey the field and ponder, with self-important historical perspective,
but a little too late, the causes of the catastrophe.

One year after the death of Su Tungpo, when the petty partisans
were in power before they handed North China over to His foreign
Majesty from across the Mongolian wilds, a historically important
episode occurred. This was the establishment of the famous Yuanyu
Partisans' Tablet, a symbol and a summing up of the struggles of the
whole period. "Yuanyu" is the name of the reign (1086-1093) under
which Su Tungpo's own party was in power, 4nd the tablet was a
black-list of 309 men, headed by Su Tungpo, of the Yuanyu regime. It
banned for ever by imperial order these persons and their children from
assuming office in the government. Descendants of the royal family
were forbidden to marry children of the "Yuanyu partisans," and if
there had been a betrothal, it was to be broken off by imperial order.
A tablet containing the black-list was to be set up in all districts of the
country; some of these still exist today on China's mountain-tops. It
was a method of weeding out all opposition for ever, and, in the authors'
minds, of committing these men to eternal infamy. Since China was
turned over to the conquerors from the north by the social reformers,